Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you… 1 Pet 4:12-14
The very simple relationship that is stated over and over again in the New Testament is that the apostles understood their suffering and that of the Church to be a living out of the sufferings of Christ- just as Jesus said of true discipleship. (Acts 9:15-16, Col 1:24, 2 Cor 1:5, 2 Cor 4:10). Put simply, if our discipleship is to be Christoform, it must be cruciform until the Day of Lord. And just as He suffered before entering into His glory, we must do the same.
…and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. Rom 8:17 (Phil 3:10, I Cor 4:9-16, Jn 15:19-21)
In the New Testament the apostolic lifestyle is presented as exemplary, not exceptional. We are warned that if we do not suffer with Jesus we will not be glorified with Him. We must soberly ask if the absence of persecution in the West is due to a fundamental change in the world or rather a reflection of the relative impotency of our choices and our witness. Has the world gotten less evil or have we suburbanized godliness? Have we subtly put up boundary lines on where and when evangelism can happen in order to ensure that we are protected from tribulation and persecution? God has a design for the glory of Jesus in suffering – may He find that purpose fulfilled in us.